Major petroleum exploration conference

Conference on Ireland’s Deepwater Frontier: Results from the

Petroleum Infrastructure Programme (PIP)

Wednesday 12th (all day) and Thursday 13th (am only) September, 2001

Court Hotel, Killiney, Co. Dublin

This conference will present some of the results of the applied research funded by the Petroleum Infrastructure Programme administered by the Department of the Marine & Natural Resources. It will display the depth and range of Irish research capability in the hydrocarbon exploration sector and give an introduction to the type of data that has been acquired by the Programme. The conference will also highlight future opportunities and discuss potential areas for further investment in research.

Minister for the Marine & Natural Resources, Frank Fahey TD, will address delegates at 6pm on Wednesday, September 12th, 2001.

The conference programme is attached.

The Programme has been funded to the extent of £6.2 million by those exploration companies who received licences under the Rockall and Porcupine Licensing Rounds. It was launched in 1997 and there were 3 groups within the Programme - the Offshore Support Group, the Rockall Studies Group and the Porcupine Studies Group.

Background Information for Editors (Revised and updated from Note circulated on 11/09):

Offshore Support Group (OSG)

At present the OSG has an overall budget of £860,000 provided by the licensees under the Rockall Trough and South Porcupine Frontier Licensing Rounds. The Group, which is managed by the Petroleum Affairs Division, provides funding for projects that strengthen local support structures for hydrocarbon exploration and development in Ireland. To date the Group agreed to provide funding to 28 projects in several areas including the purchase of equipment, training, goods and services. It is expected to provide funding for further projects in the coming year.

Rockall Studies Group (RSG)

The RSG is addressing common industry problems in the Rockall Basin area through regional data gathering/applied research and is chaired by the PAD. All licence-holders in the Rockall Basin were members and contributed to the annual £1.2 million budget of the Group, which has run for 4 years, effective from June 1997. The Group has funded 55 projects, 15 of which are still ongoing, mainly in areas of PhD research. During last year the Group undertook follow-on studies based on data acquired in completed projects. Further new data was acquired, for example environmental data during a large-scale cetacean and seabird survey which will run until the end of 2001. The RSG completed its term in June 2001 and a caretaker group (RCG) is now overseeing the completion of the group’s business.

Porcupine Studies Group (PSG)

The PSG was set up in 1999 and has to date made funds available for 19 projects, 10 of which are completed. Projects include gravity and magnetic studies and other geological, geophysical and environmental studies. The Group has a budget of £630,000 and is concentrating on data gathering and applied research in the Porcupine Basin. This Group, like the RSG, is chaired by the Petroleum Affairs Division.

Exploration/development/production in Ireland

There has been some level of petroleum exploration in Ireland for over 40 years. While Ireland’s record of prospectivity is not as successful to date as that of our neighbours in North-west Europe, it should be remembered that we have been producing gas from indigenous (offshore) sources for the last 23 years and this looks set to continue for at least the next 20 years. This continuation is due to the announcement last January to develop the Corrib Field, our first substantial discovery since Kinsale in 1978.

It has been the policy of every Irish Government to promote exploration in Ireland, both onshore and offshore. When exploration started on a comprehensive basis at the end of the 1960s, our hopes and expectations were high due to the discoveries of oil and gas in the North Sea. These high hopes were further fuelled by the discovery of the Kinsale Head Gas Field in 1971 and were reflected in the 1975 Licensing Terms. Since that time there have been only 3 successful wells which led to commercial development, out of a total of 126 exploration wells drilled since 1971.

The current licensing terms were very carefully designed and introduced in 1992 to compensate for both the lack of perceived prospectivity and local operating conditions in terms of climate and water depths and to encourage interest, exploration and development.

This year there will be 3 exploration wells, and 7 wells in all, drilled offshore Ireland. This is a significant increase on the number of wells drilled in any recent year. However, commitments for exploration wells beyond this year amount to only a few wells - 3 at present.

Since the start of this year the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources has had discussions with the industry in Ireland to gauge interest on the part of the industry in making well commitments in certain other limited areas. These discussions are just complete, the industry’s views are being considered and an announcement on the Minister’s decision about a further licensing round will be made in the near future.

Production in Ireland

At the height of its production the Kinsale Head Gas Field met up to 70% of the national gas requirement. A steady increase in our consumption of gas since then means that the Corrib Field will only provide up to 50% of our requirement. In Ireland at present only about 30% of our gas requirement is met from indigenous production, so that 70% of our gas requirement and all of our oil requirement is imported. Given Ireland’s recent and projected economic growth the proportion of our oil and gas needs which have to be imported is likely to be well above the EU average.

It is also clear that there is a move towards the use of gas as a fuel to generate electricity. If Ireland is to have the generating capacity to enable national output to continue to grow, and if we are to provide more of that capacity from gas generation, then it is clear that we will need significant additional quantities of gas. A challenge posed in the EU Green Paper is to de-link economic growth and rises in energy consumption.

ENDS.

For further information, please contact:
Tom McLoughlin
Press Officer
Department of the Marine and Natural Resources
Leeson Lane
Dublin 2
Tel: 353-(0)1-619-9662
Fax: 353-(0)1-619-6161

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources29-31 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel +353-1-6782000 Fax +353-1-6782449
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